One of the Sadder Government Shutdown Story You’ll Read Today

A Bourne man is one of many who can't participate in clinical cancer trials while the government remains partially shuttered.

Updated Oct. 4, 2013: Dana Farber Cancer Institute released a statement to announce they have “overcome issues generated by the recent government shutdown,” with help from the NIH and Rep. William Keating and will be enrolling new patients. Thank goodness for that.

Original: As the federal government’s partial shutdown (or “slimdown” as Fox News is calling it today) marches ever onward, there are ever more compelling examples of reasons it makes sense to have your fights over the size of government while keeping the doors of government open.

The Boston Business Journal has the incredibly frustrating story of Leo Finn, a Bourne, Massachusetts resident. Finn was diagnosed with bile duct cancer, and after six months, his chemotherapy treatments stopped working. So he’s enrolled in a clinical trial at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to receive a drug that’s shown success with thyroid cancer:

But on Monday, Finn learned that the trial, set to begin next Wednesday, would be delayed because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved it yet. That won’t happen, Finn said his doctor told him, until the federal shutdown ends.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for Dana Farber couldn’t comment on any specific drug trial. But Bruce Johnson, chief clinical research officer, said in a statement that “due to the shutdown, new trials cannot be opened at this moment using the existing regulations.”

Finn’s not alone. There are plenty of stories coming out about patients enrolled in clinical medical trials who can’t get treatments for their terminal illnesses. It makes you rethink the assurances of some conservatives who downplayed the shutdown’s impact in its early hours, as when Sarah Palin said on Fox News, “All this hysteria anyway, Sean, over a partial government shutdown is exactly that. It is hysteria. There isn’t going to be actual government shutdown as long as we prioritize funding for those most important functions of our federal government.”

Does that mean lawmakers have officially prioritized keeping the WWII monument open above medical research? As we figure out that people like Leo Finn’s faer of an extended government shutdown isn’t just hysteria, can we agree to cease debating whether it matters that the government be funded and go back to debating how to fund it?